Films.Dance, Second Round a curated series of dance films dropped its premier piece on Monday Sept. 13th, which is followed by 14 more films each Monday through Dec. 20th. Creatively directed and Produced by Jacob Jonas The Company, more than 250 artists from 25 countries participated in bringing their diverse abilities, disciplines and experiences, to the screen. The first six films are reviewed here.

“Do Butterflies Remember Being Caterpillars” was the inaugural offering. Dancer Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli is the solo dancer. The title and his nickname clue us in to what is to come. Patuelli a dancer with disabilities expresses himself with expert use of his upper body and remarkable core strength. Dressing, dragging him-self down a hallway or trapped on the floor, we feel his intense frustration. He moves aggressively, his face contorting as he throws himself fully into the choreography by Alessandro Giaquinto. Patuelli’s anger at what appears to be a sterile and lonely life is palpable. Though we have empathy for this butterfly the piece stagnates, as it does not develop beyond these few emotions. The symbolism feels forced, especially the sudden unexplained nosebleed. With adequate if uninspired music by HOLOGRAMME we yearn for a moment of tranquility for this remarkable dancer. Director CARAZ working with cinematographer Derrick Branscombe creates a somber sepia toned mood that suits the intention of the work. Though not completely successful it is heartening to see dance rendered possible for people of all abilities.

"Do Butterflies Remembr Being Caterpillars" - Director: Caraz - Featuring Luca "Lazylegz" Branscombe - Courtesy of The Wallis

“Do Butterflies Remembr Being Caterpillars” – Director: Caraz – Featuring Luca “Lazylegz” Branscombe – Courtesy of The Wallis

Monday, Sept. 20th, brought  “Box Out” to the screen. “A choreographic interpretation of the mental strategies that are utilized in basketball” is the platform from which this piece arises. This tantalizing piece is danced by the beautiful duo of Micaela Taylor also the choreographer and Jermaine Spivey. Basketball strategies, confrontations, fake outs and resistance is used here as an apt metaphor for the relationships we forge. Taylor’s choreography has a streetwise edge with enough touches of classical jazz and modern to keep it interesting and pleasing to the viewer. These dancers working in perfect synchronization flow easily from move to move. The intensity of their state of mind is clear although somewhat one note. A moment of joy, empathy or even overt anger would have drawn on the viewers emotions and brought the piece to another level. With the expert guidance of John Mosely, the Head Coach of East Los Angeles College Men’s Basketball team the juxtaposition of dance and sport, comes together to create a cohesive and intriguing work. The excellent cinematography by Julia Swain captures the concentrated mood, as does the music by Ian Chang and Topu Lyo and sound design by Staub Design.

"Box Out" - Director: Joy Isabella Brown - Featuring Jermaine Spivey and Micaela Taylor - Photo courtesy of The Wallis

“Box Out” – Director: Joy Isabella Brown – Featuring Jermaine Spivey and Micaela Taylor – Photo courtesy of The Wallis

Dancer Daniel Domenech a member of Ballet Vlaaderen, formally The Royal Ballet of Flanders, is the soloist of this 3rd presentation of Films.Dance titled “Chambers.”  Brilliant choreography by disabled dancer Jerron Herman, gives Domenech the opportunity to wow us with his gorgeous technique and physical beauty. Choreographer, Herman has created this work to incorporate his disability and to that end Domenech dances almost exclusively with his left hand held close to his chest. Domenech uses his exquisite line and impeccable training to run the gamut of dynamic moves and bring us into this “Chamber” of movement. From the extreme heights of an industrial fire escape to the cocooning indenture of a flowing wall or the freedom of an empty field, the perfectly integrated architectural sites create unique and fascinating backdrops for the explosive athletic dancing. The music composed by Matthew Jamal works well but is inhibited by the unnecessary and distracting Voice Over spoken by Sierou. Still with expert Direction by Kristian van Kujik and Editing by Femke Riipkema this is a topnotch short film.

"Chambers" - Directed by Kristian van Kuijk featuring Daniel Domenech - Photo courtesy of The Wallis.

“Chambers” – Directed by Kristian van Kuijk featuring Daniel Domenech – Photo courtesy of The Wallis.

Hailing from Moscow, Russia, the fourth entry in Films.Dance is Written and Directed by Nikolay Zheludovich with Choreography by Mike Tyus. “POOL WITHOUT WATER” is an ironical title for a piece that depicts a nightmarish scenario that might just be a comment on the times in which we are living. Though a good idea and a slick look, there is nothing especially original here. A frightened man seems to be lost in a series of rooms inhabited by strange otherworldly humans. Each room contains another nightmare with no escape. In one image we see only hands and faces flowing in the darkness, in another a group of men stand in a backlit room and lean forward and back repeatedly and in still another room, these same men roll and contort helplessly off a small stage onto the floor and so it goes from space to space. While it would take the strength of a dancer to achieve these moves there is little real dancing here. These dancers are capable of more and allowing them to do that would elevate the piece. The journey of the frightened man culminates when he is confronted with an androgynous character in a red evening gown. What this portends we can only guess. Though interesting the overall concept ultimately feels like a promising idea not fully realized. The featured actors, Dmitry Kubasov, Danila Polyakov and Varvara Smhykova have little to do but look despondent or frightened. The music an intense soundscape Composed by Zurkas Tepla builds to a powerful crescendo. Excellent camera work by Director of Photography Nikolay Zheludovich is aided by apt Editing by Zurkas Tepla. Production Designer: Ekaterina Dzhagarova has a good eye for interesting backgrounds while Costume stylist: Ekaterina Belaya acquits herself well. The underused Dancers are Chernih Denis, Alexey Rukinov, Danna Sakhanov, Vasko Nasonov and Arsen Imenov.

"Pool Without Water" - Director: Nikolay Zheludovich - Featuring ChernihDenis, Alexey Rukinov, Danna Sakhanov, Vasko Nasonov, Arsen Imenov - Photo courtesy of The Wallis

“Pool Without Water” – Director: Nikolay Zheludovich – Featuring ChernihDenis, Alexey Rukinov, Danna Sakhanov, Vasko Nasonov, Arsen Imenov – Photo courtesy of The Wallis

Coming to us from London, England is “SIREN” staring gorgeous principal dancer from the Royal Ballet, Francesca Hayward. This is the 5th film in the ongoing presentation of Films.Dance. Hayward is first seen at a great distance as she dances disconnectedly on the stage of the Royal Opera House. The program notes explain that this exclusively black and white film “expresses the macabre origins of the ballets that captivated Francesca as a young child.”  Dark and noir-ish the viewer can catch glimpses of the Dying Swan, or Gisele’s mad scene or any number of gothic tales upon which many ballets are based. This is a good idea and has some moments of interest but doesn’t go far enough and leaves the viewer wanting more. Hayward’s acting is relegated to looking lost or distressed but mostly she has an expression of implacability. Overall though artfully shot this small film needs more purposeful dancing and more character development. The Director is Jess Kohl with Director of Photography Eoin McLoughlin and Choreography by Michael Montgomery. The effective music is Composed by Isobel Waller Ridge.

“DISIGNIGRATED” the 6th film in this series. Directed, Choreographed and Edited by Wade Robson and Tony Testa hopes were high for something truly innovative from this accomplished duo and while the camera work, special effects and gorgeous natural settings are beguiling the rehashed concept is disappointing. Tony Testa appears as a lone dancer abandoned in nature unable to connect to the outside world, an idea used endlessly in these pandemic times. Testa executes the preternatural contemporary dance with conviction and intensity but trapped in infinite beauty one might find a moment for an emotion other than fear and distress. However limited the concept, the filmmaking itself is intriguing with inventive Cinematography by Robson and some fantastic Special Effects as well as a truly haunting Musical Score by Zara McFarlane. It’s worth taking an extra minute to watch the amusing if slightly out of context Title Animation by Laurence Muleh.

"Disintegrated" - Directors: Tony Testa and Wade Robson - Featuring Tony Testa - Photo courtesy of The Wallis

“Disintegrated” – Directors: Tony Testa and Wade Robson – Featuring Tony Testa – Photo courtesy of The Wallis

Though many of these films have much to offer, excellent cinematography, editing, music, choreography and dancing, there seems to be primarily one idea at work and that is; “a world of angst.” Perhaps it is the pandemic that has brought this paucity of emotional ideas to the fore but I hope that in the future these gifted artists will find a more expansive way of looking at the world and will rise to the occasion.

Jacob Jonas The Company should be commended for producing this second round of Films.Dance. The company’s support of these artists and their films will someday culminate in archived footage of dance in the Pandemic of 2021. This is an important achievement indeed.

To watch these films and learn more about Films.Dance, Second Round, click HERE.

To visit the Jacob Jonas The Company website, click HERE.

Written by Tam Warner for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: “Chambers” – Director: Kristian van Kuijk – Featuring Daniel Domenech – Photo courtesy of The Wallis